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Natalie Douglas: Too early to issue prognosis

Natalie Douglas, the wife of jockey Rene Douglas, emphasized Thursday that it is "too early to tell" whether her husband suffered permanent paralysis in the wake of his horrific spill in last Saturday's Arlington Matron H. (G3). Speaking in a telephone interview on HRTV, she noted that the doctors have made clear that it will take at least two weeks for the swelling to subside, and until that occurs, a definitive prognosis cannot be made.

In view of his "extensive injuries," involving broken ribs and two punctured lungs, in addition to his compressed vertebrae and damage to his neck, the rider's wife reiterated that "his body needs time to relax and to heal" before a clearer picture can emerge.

"As of now, he can't feel his legs, can't move them," but she stressed that condition may turn out to be temporary.

It's a "game of waiting right now," she said. "We have to wait and give him time."

Natalie Douglas commented on the initial reports that surfaced Sunday, after the rider underwent seven-hour surgery, which offered a much more pessimistic long-term view of his prospects for walking again.

"I think there was a lot of miscommunication between a lot of people -- thoughts were not expressed the proper way," she said.

The jockey's wife also issued an upbeat report about his frame of mind, revealing that he has not lost a whit of his trademark determination and positive attitude.

"We know how strong he is, how determined he is when he wants something," she said. "He's very strong, the upper part of his body, and his mind is clear. He's Rene at his best. He communicates with us.

"Rene's such a strong person, so determined. If it's in his mind, he'll get it done. His mind is in the right place. We're battling, and we're optimistic. I know Rene will not give up."

Natalie Douglas was gracious in expressing her gratitude to all of those who have lent their support.

She praised the medical team at Northwestern Memorial Hospital for "doing a fantastic job," and found the support of the racetrack community "unbelievable" and "extremely touching."

A number of owners, trainers, valets and exercise riders paid visits to the hospital, "encouraging him to keep his spirits up," and telling him, "We're waiting for you."

The rider's wife made a special mention of Arlington Park's senior management, including Chairman Richard Duchossois and President Roy Arnold, for their assistance.

"They have done excellent for me, for my family, for Rene," she said.

Natalie Douglas likewise thanked the fans for their well wishes, and asked them to continue praying.

"Please keep bringing prayers. That's what we need now -- positive energy."


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